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No agreement at the CNC

28 September 2012

by staff reporters


Joining in: Dr Williams at the Hop, Skip and Jump centre at Avening,  Gloucestershire, on Saturday, during a three-day pastoral visit to Gloucester diocese. The play centre offers fun and support for children with a disability, life-threatening illness, or special needs, as well as respite for their carers

Joining in: Dr Williams at the Hop, Skip and Jump centre at Avening,  Gloucestershire, on Saturday, during a three-day pastoral visit to Glouce...

THE Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), which met last week to choose a new Archbishop of Canterbury, has been unable to agree on the two names it submits to the Prime Minister. A short statement put out by the C of E communications department on Friday does not admit this as such, but this is the only reasonable interpretation of the phrase: "The work of the Commission continues."

All meetings of the CNC are confidential, and it was a new departure this time to let it be known that a meeting was taking place. Church House staff were careful beforehand not to be drawn on whether this was the CNC's final meeting, with good reason as it now appears.

The full statement says:
"This week's meeting of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) has been accompanied by much speculation about possible candidates and the likely timing of an announcement of the name of who will succeed Dr Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury when he steps down to become Master of Magdalene College.

"The CNC is an elected, prayerful body. Its meetings are necessarily confidential to enable members to fulfil their important responsibilities for discerning who should undertake this major national and international role. Previous official briefings have indicated that an announcement is expected during the autumn and that remains the case; the work of the Commission continues.

"There will be no comment on any speculation about candidates or about the CNC's deliberations. Dr Williams remains in office until the end of December."

The rules for the CNC state that its 16 voting members must be two-thirds in favour of each of the two candidates submitted to the Prime Minister, i.e. the favoured man must secure 11 votes.

The reference in the statement to an autumn announcement indicates that another meeting will be scheduled soon.

Church House had published a special prayer on Wednesday as the Crown Nominations Commission met to decide whom to ask the Crown to nominate as the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Commission's members met at a secret location on Wednesday and Thursday to decide on two names - a preferred candidate and a back-up one - to recommend to the Prime Minister to succeed Dr Williams after he steps down at the end of the year (News, 16 March).

Since 2007, the convention has been that the Prime Minister passes on the name preferred by the Commission to the Queen.

Church House created a Twitter hashtag, #prayforthecnc, to be used in messages on the social-media site during the meeting. Church House also published a prayer, which asked God to keep the CNC's members "steadfast in faith and united in love".

A poll of 2594 adults carried out for BBC Local Radio by ComRes, published on Wednesday, found that 53 per cent thought that Dr Williams had been a good leader of the Church. Fifty-five per cent of the respondents said that he had been clear in telling people what he believed, but a quarter said that he had not made the Church relevant to modern Britain.

Responding to the poll, Elizabeth Oldfield, the director of Theos, a public-theology think tank, said that the public continue to value the moral and intellectual leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Increasingly, the role of the Archbishop should be to ask the difficult questions. . . He's uniquely placed to make the case that faith is part of the solution, not part of the problem. If anything, the next Archbishop ought to be even more political than the last."

Speaking on Channel 4 News on Tuesday, Canon Giles Fraser, a Church Times columnist, said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury is someone who sets the tone of a lot of moral debate in this country, who can make interventions that politicians can't make - no one has to vote for him; so he's free to do that - and I think he's still an important part of the moral fabric of this country."

He described the office of Archbishop as "a worse job" than the England football manager's, given the "impossible expectations".


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